If your baby is born early (before 37 weeks), it is likely that he or she will need some extra care. Some babies born at term may also need extra care if something happened during their birth or they had a problem during your pregnancy.

Sometimes special care can be provided on the postnatal ward but often babies will need to be seen in a Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). NICU is for babies with the highest care needs. 

If your baby needs an incubator, it doesn’t mean that you can’t touch them, just that they need extra help to keep warm. There are usually holes in the side so you can put your hands through and stroke them. 

Some babies need a special light therapy, known as phototherapy, to help them with jaundice. This is because some babies’ livers are too immature to break down bilirubin, the chemical that causes jaundice. Jaundice can make your baby’s skin and eyes yellow. If your baby is having light therapy, they can still be breastfed and lots of breastfeeding is one of the best ways to keep a jaundiced baby well.

It’s entirely normal to feel worried when your baby needs special care and can’t come home immediately. You can ask for advice, information and support from your baby’s nursing team at any time and the consultant neonatologist or paediatrician will be available to discuss the next steps and expectations with you. If you feel you need extra support, perhaps with practical needs or even to support your mental wellbeing, don’t be afraid to ask for help.